A couple of minutes, two dozen moleskine and twenty year’s experience.

A few weeks back a friend was describing a visit to a repairer.  He’d been despatched by his wife to have the zip on one of her (implausible number of) handbags repaired.  The zip kept jamming at the same point, adjacent to where the two sides of the zip couple.  He was hoping the zip could be replaced. (She was quietly hoping that it couldn’t.)

He handed the bag to a man in a leather apron who inspected it closely, surveyed it from a few angles, peered closely at the recalcitrant zip, examined the underside of the strap then stated, without any fear of contradiction, “she usually carries it on her right shoulder”.

He wandered away, returning with a peanut slab-sized block of metal and a small hammer. He tapped the zip half a dozen times, gently, like a woman on a first-date hatching a crème brulee. Then he ran the now free-flowing zip up and down a few times, smiled with a warranted sense of professional pride, and said “I’ve seen this a few times. Women carry their bag on the same shoulder, all the heavy stuff slides to one end, the whole bag stretches and the teeth of the zip get out of alignment”.

“That’s brilliant”, said my friend, “how much do I owe you?”

“Don’t worry about it” replied the craftsman, “it only took a couple of minutes”.

But it didn’t. It took about twenty years.  Experience, practice, a trained eye and a skilled hand, all built up over twenty years.  Which is what he should have charged for.

This was nicely paralleled in a meeting I was in a couple of years ago.  A client was presenting a brief to an agency. He asked if there were any questions. A copywriter, who had spent the majority of the meeting doodling in his moleskine, said “wouldn’t it make sense just to …. [do something very simple that I can’t really explain here]“. Everyone in the room agreed that it would indeed make sense just to …. [do something very simple that I can’t really explain here], and that, not only did it make sense, it was a fantastically good idea.  The client was most delighted of all, particularly with himself, when he announced “that’s a great idea, and what’s even better is I won’t have to pay for it because it only took a couple of minutes to come up with”.

Absolutely. A couple of minutes, two dozen moleskine and twenty year’s experience.

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About Philip O'Neill
Too much time spent thinking about clothes, advertising and music. And golf.

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